A Paris Museum and France’s Short-Lived Sephardi Aristocracy

Moïse de Camondo, a member of a wealthy clan of Sephardi merchants originating in Istanbul, settled in Paris in the 1870s with other members of his family. After his death in 1935, his home—which he filled with fashionable 18th-century antiques—became a museum that still operates today as an unintended monument to a very particular slice of French-Jewish history. Christina Sztajnkrycer writes:

The [neighborhood where the Comondos settled, known as the] plaine Monceau, is a more recent part of Paris, annexed to the city in 1860. . . . Before annexation, Emile and Isaac Pereire, having “made their fortunes as financiers, railroad-builders, and property magnates, creating colossal developments of hotels and department stores,” purchased the plaine Monceau with the park in the center and started to develop the surrounding area. These two Sephardi brothers from Bordeaux, also creators of the upscale neighborhood surrounding the Opéra Garnier and the Hôtel de la Paix in Paris, dreamed of a luxurious future for this soon-to-be elite neighborhood. . . .

[T]he Pereire brothers were not just savvy investors with a taste for luxury, they also knew how to attract and convince the wealthiest Jews of France, Europe, and the Mediterranean basin to come live in the plaine Monceau along with many other members of Parisian high society. The outcome of the Pereires’ vision was “an unprecedented mixture of nobility of the ancien régime and empire, Jewish aristocracy, high-society Protestants, [and] members of the rich industrial and financial bourgeoisie.”

Read more at Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

More about: French Jewry, History & Ideas, Museums, Paris, Sephardim

 

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security